You’ve just put together a new economic-development initiative – complete with new brand and website – to build and support prosperity in your region.

How to promote the website and the region’s opportunities is the challenge facing the recently formed Huronia Economic Alliance (HEA).

The joint venture between the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene, plus the townships of Tay and Tiny, began in 2012 to support the economic-development efforts of the four municipalities.

Realizing the importance of marketing, Penetanguishene Mayor Gerry Marshall contacted Lakehead University in Orillia with a proposal for a student project.

The pitch was met with enthusiasm by the assistant professor Joseph Paniculangara, who thought the project would provide a valuable learning experience for students in his Marketing II course.

“I introduced the project to my students, explaining that the objective was to build awareness … within the four municipalities and beyond the borders of the Huronia area,” said Paniculangara.

The students were divided into six groups, with each focusing on one of the six sectors identified by the HEA: industry, health care, retail, agriculture, tourism and recreation.

In April, the students concluded their course with presentations to their classmates and HEA representative Jessica Klug, senior planner with the Town of Penetanguishene.

“I was overwhelmed by the presentations – there were so many ideas and suggestions,” said Klug. “It was especially useful to hear from a young audience.”

Student Erica McCluskey explained she didn’t know much about the heritage and history of the area before working on the project.

“As part of our research for the tourism sector, we visited the region,” she said. “I have always been interested in local history, and now I’m looking forward to a trip back to the area this summer.”

All of the groups identified some common challenges, including confusion around the name Huronia, which could use increased brand recognition and understanding.

Among their many recommendations – from branding taglines to new areas of eco-friendly businesses – the students all mentioned the importance of social media, saying this is the “next generation of word-of-mouth marketing.”

Klug assured the students their reports will be put to good use: “They will all be turned over to our website design team this summer.”

students help market HEA

Marketing students at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus concluded their year with a presentation of a class project for the Huronia Economic Alliance. Shown with the students are assistant professor Joseph Paniculangara, far right, and Jessica Klug, third from right, senior planner with the Town of Penetanguishene. – Submitted photo

Kathy Hunt, Midland Mirror